What is Work Design
A practice-based approach to materialize the Future of Work
Work Design is an emerging practice that helps teams, organizations and communities to design how to work tomorrow.
The practice we are cultivating stems from the observation that work is designable in its discrete elements: methods, processes, tools, spaces and team structure & governance. Whether work redesign needs to happen at the organizational scale or the one of small teams that have independent governance, the redesign of work as a whole passes through the orchestration of these individual elements.
We are developing this approach to strategically develop and connect these elements and help our partners and clients to navigate the necessary cultural, operational and policy change to integrate them in their workplace.
Why this is relevant
Work is an element that has always been ‘made’ and never really designed.
The workplace has always been the focus of design, indeed the strategic intention of work as a holistic human cultural and intellectual experience has not. Work Design brings interest in work as an area of focus, one that can be intentionally developed through a dedicated project with awareness of the physical, mental and social impact it carries. Work Design can look at the idea of the ‘second place’ as an area of design intervention to bring the humanistic qualities of ‘designing work’. This allows us to build a structured and systemic way to shape the way we work positively, borrowing from knowledge and patterns that designer have used to shape social and built environments. Similarly to how previous expressions of the design culture brought humanistic qualities to areas that were just ‘made’ like software, products, communication, we are developing a Work Design knowledge with the “human-centering” work, allowing individuals, teams and organizations to fulfill their purpose.
How we do it? In a designerly way.
Through research and practice with our clients, we are prototyping and refining our own Work Design framework that is based on these phases:
- We analyze current capacities and typical project scopes — through consultation workshops and shadowing of projects, partaking work sessions and provide help when needed, we immerse ourselves in work dynamics and environment, associating existing methods, with spaces, tools and policies.
- We identify thinking and language patterns — to establish an internal line of communication and common understanding of the areas and elements that will undergo changes. On one side these patterns will be peculiar to the organization and its culture, on the other side they will align to reliable Design Thinking and Lean methodologies principles.
- We ‘objectify’ the work elements — we design “meta-methods”, that are customized processes to structures and iterate research, ideation, prototyping, implementation (or any other non-design operation) that are unique to the context of the organization. Based on material and space exploration, we co-design tools that fit your requirements and needs, and work session and formats that leverage the richest usage of existing spaces or its redesign for the purpose.
- We socialize the new framework — we share the new methods , processes and tools in open sessions and with specific stakeholder groups. Testing them on projects, we refine them and implement the necessary changes in the organization while training teams on their application and implementation of the necessary physical and digital infrastructure.
To do this, WD brings together theories and methods from Service Design, Speculative Design and Design Operations to embed and redesign new work practices in organizations, teams and communities. Through a multidisciplinary approach based on service dominant logic, it incorporates contribution from a number of disciplines such as instructional design, data visualization, space and organisational design.
Work Design Objectives
- Aligning the adopted work processes and methods to the tools and space in use
- Connect operational principles and intended cultures, to practices and rituals that enable them
- Connecting the strategic goals of a space to its design and implementation
- Connect new ways and model of working to spaces and tools
We are collecting and interpreting data and insights on the subject to periodically publish updates in the Work Design Publication. Work Design is a living body of knowledge and toolkit.
We will publish new editions of each post as we evolve the theory and the framework informed by new projects we do in the field.